The South Dublin Swans had home advantage for the Preliminary Final by virtue of their second place finish on the ladder. The Redbacks travelled to St. Brendan’s GAA on the Chapelizod Road off the back of a Round 6 victory over their Dublin rivals, which would have given them a massive confidence booster.
The Dublin men, known for their slow starts this year, hit the ground running. Playing against the wind in the first quarter, it was imperative that the Swans started brightly. Drew Baldwin won most of the ball ups which allowed the Swans midfield to go to work. Connor Dunne opened the scoring for the home side which was added to through Dan Matveyeff before big Kev McSorley responded for the Redbacks through a much needed goal. The Swans got the better of the first quarter and led 25 to 14 at the break.
With the aid of a second quarter breeze, the Dublin side may have put the game to bed early but it wasn’t to be. Keith Whelan was energetic in the midfield, enjoying alot of the ball early in the second term. Darragh Devlin was fantastic in the backline for the Swans all day. Along with Whelan, the 2 former South Melbourne men formed a great partnership down the right for the Swans. Seamus Owens and Gavin Delaney goaled while Kyle Devine responded for the Redbacks, keeping his side in it. The loss of Keith Whelan midway through the second term was detrimental to the Swans dominance. They only managed 2 goals 5 in the term, when really they could have been out of sight. This left the door open for the fearless Redbacks.
Quarter three saw a blistering display from the Ulster men. David McElhone and Dean Skinner found themselves with the footy on countless occasions and managed to impact the scoreboard through intelligent use of the Sherrin. The Redbacks wiped out the 21 point half time deficit and only for some wayward shooting and brave Dublin defending, they may well have been in front at the end of the Premiership quarter.
All to play for in the final term. The home side responded much like they have throughout the season. With the loss of Gavin Murray who kicked 4 goals on the day, Drew Baldwin moved to full forward. Rory Quinlivan moved into the ruck and regained control of the ball ups. James O’Donoghue was having some sort of day on the left wing for the Swans, taking 2 contested Mark’s and his energetic running was rewarded with a goal. The tall Aussie, Baldwin relished his chance up front and kicked 2 final quarter goals, settling the nerves of the Swans interchange bench. Gene Casey added another and the Swans racked up the behinds. The Redbacks tried in vain to get back into the game, their heroic 3rd quarter display maybe took too much out of the Ulster men as the Swans got over the line by 16 points.
A fantastic display of football highlighted the talent in the league. The Belfast Redbacks can be mightily proud of their performance, pushing the Swans all the way. For the South Dublin Swans, a Grand Final against the Leeside Lions awaits, a just reward for their excellent season to date. Can the Swans claim their first Premiership since 2015? Their performances suggest they can but against a tough Lions outfit it will be a tough ask. One things for sure, we will have a ripper Grand Final on October 9th.